We’re Hmong trekking guides from Mung Hoa Valley, near the town Sapa. We grew up in these mountains and know the trails inside out. Our work is to guide people around this beautiful landscape and give them a good time. We prefer working independently and we’re very experienced when it comes to guiding people. All of us speak English.
We are the only Female and Hmong-owned trekking company in Sapa and are proud to operate a business that ensures all of our guides a fair salary and opportunities to grow in our community. With the help of our friends, we have been able to create businesses that can support ourselves and our families but also ensure long-term employment and security.
How it all Started
Sapa Sisters was started in 2009 by six friends: Radek Stypczynski, a painter and visual artist from Poland/Sweden, Ylva Landoff Lindberg (www.ylvalandofflindberg.com), also an artist, with four Hmong women Lang Yan, Lang Do, Chi, and Zao. Radek, having seen and heard firsthand the difficulties of young Hmong women, in particular, finding decent jobs and wages in Sapa began collaborating with the Girls on a venture that could be self-sustaining and operated almost entirely independent of outside assistance. The idea was simple: a Trekking company operated by the girls with no middle-man i.e. tourist operators or hotels; Radek would set up a website that could connect travelers with their guides as well as help communicate between travelers and guides as the girls cannot read or write English (although their spoken English is excellent)…
Once connected in Sapa, the guides work directly with travelers to choose custom itineraries around special interests and/or fitness levels from Sapa through the picturesque valley. Whether one-day treks or multi-night adventures with home-stay accommodations, travelers experience one on one tours with their guides exploring indigenous hill tribes and the stunning landscapes that is the Sapa Valley. Sapa Sisters welcomes individuals, couples and honeymooners, small groups, family with young kids trips, and students on educational field trips.
The Sapa Sisters experience is genuinely unique and has been met with great success as evidenced by their glowing reviews in Trip Advisor and inclusion in Lonely Planet and Petit Fute. Sapa Sisters now employs up to 19 guides during peak season and is owned by the Hmong guides and Ylva.
Radek passed away tragically in 2011 but his vision and mission along with the founders of Sapa Sisters remain; a Hmong-owned business that empowers and facilitates a safe place for the Sisters to work and live in a self-sustained operation. Since Radek’s passing Ylva Landoff Lindberg has taken the role of connecting travelers and the Sisters via the Sapa Sisters website.
Why Sapa Sisters is Important
Sapa Sisters plays a crucial role in empowering Hmong women, who traditionally face gender-based inequalities in Asian societies. Hmong women’s rights, particularly regarding inheritance and education, are often limited, and they face challenges like arranged marriages and societal acceptance of spousal abuse. The risk of trafficking for forced marriages and prostitution is a stark reality, with some of our guides being brave survivors of such exploitation.
Through Sapa Sisters, these women have not only learned multiple languages but have also taken significant strides in overcoming societal barriers. This initiative has substantially improved their earning potential, leading to tangible changes at both family and community levels. Women are now able to save for their children’s future, purchase farmland, and upgrade their homes, contributing significantly to their family’s well-being.
This economic empowerment has also shifted traditional family roles, with many husbands now actively supporting their wives’ careers and taking on childcare and household responsibilities. This is a significant step towards gender equality in a society where men were traditionally the sole providers.
At a broader level, Sapa Sisters ensures that the economic benefits of tourism remain within the Hmong community, supporting their customary livelihoods like farming, and providing a counterbalance to the dominance of larger Vietnamese-run tourism enterprises. This initiative is not just a business but a movement, fostering long-term positive change for Hmong women, their families, and the wider community.